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Red Faction II

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Volition
Publisher:  THQ
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  FPS
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  7-16-03

When Red Faction was released for the PS2 in 2001, it represented (in my eyes anyway) the first great FPS to hit the system.  The controls were tight, the storyline was unique, and the much-hyped Geo-Mod technology was impressive.  The game was also a commercial success, prompting THQ and Volition to quickly crank out a sequel (this time for all platforms).  The result is Red Faction II, a sequel that has little to do with the first game but is nevertheless another solid FPS.

While the first one took place in the caves of Mars, this time around the setting is on Earth.  The player plays as Alias on a team of six elite soldiers fighting against their creator, the evil Chancellor Sopot.  Eventually Sopot begins to fear his own creations, and declares them enemies of the state.  Thus, the player’s team decides that he must die for this and other crimes against humanity.  The only tie to the original game is that the nanotechnology used to create these super soldiers originated on Mars, and the six super soldiers are fighting alongside the resistance to Sopot dubbed Red Faction (which is relegated into the very far background in this battle).  The storyline is really the weakest area of the game, and what ultimately prevents it from being as good as the original.  Aside from the unoriginal plot, the game doesn’t do a good job of even telling the story that is there, and character development is pretty weak as well.  Even the surprise (you’ll see) is somewhat cliché.  The main highlight of story progression lies in the number of scripted events, which is pretty impressive and at times can even make the player think “woah, that was cool”.

Gameplay is much the same as the first game, with the typical FPS controls most people expect.  Movement is handled with the control stick, the C stick controls turning, secondary functions are assigned to the d-pad, R & L control primary and secondary firing for certain weapons, and the face buttons control various in-game actions.  Levels take place both on foot, and in one of several different types of vehicles.  In the vehicular levels, the player is generally along for the ride and is responsible for taking out the enemy and clearing a path while the computer drives the vehicle (there are exceptions to his, most notably the awesome mech).  It also borrows an element from Halo this time, as Alias can regenerate his health if he hides out for a few seconds without taking any enemy fire.

Most importantly, the popular Geo-Mod technology returns for a second installment.  In case you aren’t familiar with it, in a nutshell it allows the player to blow up a variety of objects in the environment to access new areas, alternate paths, and hidden extras.  While it’s put to better use this time around (more things to blow up and more variables), it’s still underutilized.  There are only a few instances where its use is really essential to surviving and advancing, and you never get the feeling that a situation is “inescapable” without it.  Worse yet, most levels are so linear that when you do need to blow something up to advance, it’s readily apparent what should be done.  I’m not saying that Volition should’ve completely hidden how to advance in these instances, but they could’ve done a lot more to make the player actually have to think about how to move forward.  Overall Geo-Mod still serves to set this game apart from most other FPS titles, but I wish they’d do more with it. 

Red Faction II also includes a variety of multiplayer modes, including death match, capture the flag, bagman, arena, and team variations of each of these on 40 different multiplayer maps.  None of these are particularly remarkable, and can be found in most other FPS titles.  Fortunately Red Faction II does support up to 5 different user-created bots, enabling those of us with no FPS-lovin’ friends to get in on the fun too.

Enemy AI is decent, but certainly a notch below other FPS titles like Halo or even Metroid Prime.  Enemies will often duck and take cover and work in teams, but other times they’ll dumbly stand in place or worse turn and run in a wide-open area.  Additionally, some characters seem to be way overpowered in comparison to their contemporaries.  On the whole they’re challenging enough, but some work could definitely be done to improve this area in the next installment.

This is a port of the PS2 version, and it shows in the sub-standard graphics.  While everything is anti-aliased to remove the nasty PS2 shimmer, many textures still look washed out and the colors are generally muted and uninspiring.  Everything blows up real pretty though, and the enemy animations (particularly when they’re dying) are spot-on.  So while the graphics are decent enough that it isn’t a big issue, overall they aren’t up to typical GameCube standards.

Just like the first game, enemies will often utter various statements during battle.  This has actually been toned down though, which is very disappointing as some hilarious dialogue was found in the original (particularly when you’d sneak up on an enemy).  In its place is additional chatter from teammates, but their dialogue is fairly lame and “edgy” just for the sake of being so.  The actual voice acting itself is good though, including the work of Lance Henriksen (Millennium, The Quick and the Dead, and several video games among others).  The music is mostly generic techno stuff, which is another disappointment in comparison to the original.  It isn’t out of place, but it doesn’t add a lot either. 

Highs:

  • Geo-Mod technology again makes it fun and useful to blow stuff up.
  • Tight controls, a smooth framerate, and plenty of stuff to kill.
  • Enemy animations are nice.

Lows:

  • Overall look is a notch below the GameCube standard, despite the excellent explosions.
  • Geo-Mod technology is still not reaching it's full potential.
  • Dialogue is worse than the original.

Final Verdict:

Despite the somewhat negative tone of this review, Red Faction II really is a great addition to the GameCube’s FPS lineup.  By itself it’s unique and simple enough to be very entertaining, but as part of the series it doesn’t live up to the standard set by the original.  Worth picking up if you haven’t already played the Xbox or PS2 versions.

Overall Score: 8.5

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